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close this bookDisaster Assessment (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 54 p.)
close this folderPART 2 - Practical insights on conducting assessments
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGeneral guidelines on factors contributing to success in disaster assessments
View the documentPractical guidelines on assessment in sudden onset emergencies
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentPractical guidelines on assessments in slow onset emergencies
View the documentCASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

Qualitative Assessment of Population Displacement

For many years, Guatemala has been plagued by civil unrest that has affected mostly the rural Indian populations of the highland. In 1982, a preliminary visit to a war-torn northern zone that once was home to approximately 40,000 people revealed that the area was virtually uninhabited. But by May of 1982, many former residents had begun to return to their villages only to find their crops and homes destroyed and no available medical services. Newly arriving residents were faced with the prospect of having to wait at least one full harvest cycle (nine months) before they could secure food.

Three conclusions were reached: 1) a very large population was affected but very few outside agencies knew the extent; 2) there was no assessment going on; and 3) the little resource delivery that was taking place was inadequate and not coordinated. An information base was needed to begin selecting target areas for relief activity.

In August, 1983 a bilingual field team of local interviewers was trained. The use of local interviewers instilled confidence and trust in the Indian population. The interviewers used two types of survey techniques:

· an observational checklist for the interviewer to document rapidly his/her impressions of accessibility; agriculture; community appearance; resident attributes and public services

· A preliminary and in-depth key informant checklist to document community attrition; numbers of refugees and widows; amount and duration of abandonment; quality of the last harvest; and amount of destruction attributable to the civil strife.

Key informants were chosen from mayors, civil patrol, commissioners, religious leaders, teachers and various community committee members. Time spent in each community was kept to a minimum. Information from the interviews provided detailed village-level information that was compiled into community profile sheets.

During the assessment exercise, 187 villages were visited. Sixty percent were at least moderately affected by the violence. Twenty-eight percent were found to be in a high need using a set of reliable indicators derived from the survey data. These communities were targeted for immediate relief.

Although the techniques were not based on formal sampling and survey methods they had the advantages of village focus, speed, simplicity, and relatively low cost (approximately $800.00 (US Dollars) per week.

Before this formal assessment took place, relief organizations were aware of the general but not specific problems. Because the methodology targeted specific villages that were seriously affected by the violence, the relief community was prompted to take immediate action and concentrated aid distribution to the most affected communities minimizing valuable resource waste caused by targeting of less needy populations.

This case study was adapted from Rapid Post-disaster Community Needs Assessment, Richard A. Margoluis et al, Disasters, Vol. 13. No. 4,1989, pages 287-299.

A large-scale population displacement emergency may arise from either conflict or the catastrophic breakdown of food security in an area. In displacement emergencies, an overall objective of assessment is to build a picture of the scale and geography of the population flows over time. Because rates of flow can grow fast and quickly exceed the existing services available, early action needs to concentrate on forecasts of the numbers of people leaving affected areas, the routes likely to be travelled and the projected settlement patterns in relation to available services and resources. Assessment should also concentrate on identifying early signs of breakdowns in the provision of services, including bulk food logistics programs, emergency water supply and health services and registration and distribution systems. From the start, decision-makers will need clear displays of sighting reports of groups en route and displays of known flow rates, settlements, numbers and demography.

In the longer term, in food and population displacement emergencies, assessment requirements shift to distribution effectiveness and assessment of emergency response needs. The focus shifts to the following problem areas: new influxes, epidemics, flooding, impact of local conflict, agricultural recovery requirements and repatriation and relocation requirements.

Q. What are major challenges in conducting assessments in slow onset disasters?

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ANSWER

Lead times can be long, information may be ambiguous and donors may be reluctant to act without highly dependable data. Assessments must accurately forecast and predict possible future contingencies related to population movement and supply system breakdown.

NOTES

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